Posted: August 1st, 2009 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: All, Boston 2009, FewForChange, Thoughts | Tags: All | 1 Comment »
A month later and countless edits from amazingly caring people, and I’ve finished step one of the medical school application process. The application should have been submitted weeks ago, but I do not regret the long process it’s taken me to get to this point.
The final version is less interesting, full of subtly hinted activities that I’ve done in my college career. Instead, I’d like to share version five (of eleven), only because it’s the one that I wrote most comfortably and was most comfortable with, (although ultimately it did not serve the purpose of my medical school application essay).
In times of difficulty, we obtain lasting knowledge. While facts and formulas fade, what remains is a core set of principles, the basic lemmas with which we decide how to respond, react, and ultimately progress. In the unforeseen moments of tribulation we add and adapt to those principles, molding and reshaping ourselves towards constant betterment, that is, to say that the “us” of today has improved upon that of yesterday. Since childhood I had wished to become a doctor, but it is my experiences in those moments of difficulty that confident that I want to pursue a career in medicine.
“He who climbs Fuji-san once, is a great man. He who climbs it twice, is an idiot.” Thirty-six hours on a mountain with a pulled muscle and little oxygen led me to question whether climbing it once was enough to consider myself idiotic. It hurt. A lot. But upon reaching the apex, all doubts subsided. My body had been pushed beyond its known limitations and more importantly, persevered. Above the clouds against the rising sun, I stood less in awe of the surreal scene before me but more in awe of the human creation, wondering just how many billions of biological processes worked together that day to keep me alive, to find enough energy to will myself past all points of surrender, and to give me the strength to ignore the unfortunate truth: I still had to climb down. But it was then I was sure. I wanted to study medicine.
Back on the ground, my daily work at the research institute had come to a standstill. Learning to communicate in a Japanese lab had been difficult enough, but adding on the stress of a failed cell line, I was beginning to feel boxed in. Silently I envisioned future nights as a physician dealing with similar circumstances of hopelessness and mental fatigue. But in that future as in then, I knew I would have to find ways to continue. Unwilling to allow an entire summer succumb to a single ineffectual strain of cells, I took a syringe to my arm–if their cells didn’t work, I would try my own.
After a successful three months in Japan, I flew to Panama and immediately found my brain’s agility being tested beyond any previous capacity. it seemed as though years had passed since I had last heard fluent English, much less Spanish. And for the third time that day, I reddened, having just told a very confused taxi driver, “Sumimasen–no wait, sorry, I mean–Permiso…” Over the coming weeks, it quickly became necessary to learn how to approach each new cultural situation with the appropriate delicacy and tact: a skill that will undoubtedly prove invaluable to a physician in a rapidly shrinking world.
But of all the attributes required of a doctor, I have learned to rank compassion among the highest. In the Panama study abroad program our group of nine travelled from place to place, rarely staying for more than a handful of days. One such stop was at the Ngobe indigenous reservation, a poverty-ridden region far removed from any true source of medical care. There I met Lula, my homestay little sister.
Though silent in nature, she spoke volumes in smiles. After a day’s journey I lifted her off the muddied ground and with my free hand, motioned to a first-aid kit. In tacit assent she put forth an injured foot–the mile-long trek had not treated her bare soles kindly. While tending to her injuries, I allowed her tiny fingers to fiddle with my unkempt hair, attempting to distract her from the sting of the bactine. She winced, burrowing into my shoulder. I gently smiled in apology; but slowly, a deeper source of anguish unraveled in my chest.
Lula was one of the many orphans of the village, and many of the Ngobe children would not see adulthood due to common, curable diseases. In that instant, I felt powerless to do much else aside from treating her cuts and scrapes. There was little I could do to prevent her future sicknesses; there was little I could do to bring medical care to the village. All I could do then was show compassion to her and the others I would meet that day—compassion I will one day forge in the bonds of the doctor-patient relationship during similar seemingly hopeless situations. But fortunately in this case, their situation was far from hopeless.
In the following semester, I founded FewForChange, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising scholarships for Lula and others in similar situations. With the money raised, we will give their future generations a chance at education—the option we deemed most probable to end the cycle of poverty. To date, our group of twenty (and counting) has raised two full scholarships. I have recently returned from Panama to ensure that all the steps are underway–at least two students next year will have the funds for transportation, food, and tuition.
With each difficulty that I have known in the brief years of my life, I have found an opportunity for accomplishment and personal growth. Medicine will offer a lifetime of such opportunities, and I look forward to the lessons each one will hold. And while some will undoubtedly sneer at such a pursuit, I invite them to remember the words of Peter Marshall: “When we long for life without difficulties, remember that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”
It is (as is much of my writing, I feel) overly dramatized, but when trying to review and draw conclusions from the past years of life, the writing tends to sway in that direction. Either way, I thought it’d be interesting to share because this essay represents one reason I wish to study medicine, and the outlook I am taking towards this future career.
Posted: July 17th, 2009 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: All, Boston 2009, Thoughts | Tags: All | 1 Comment »
So I run the two miles home from work now. There was a seminar with free lunch at the lab, for which they ordered too many sandwiches. Come time to leave, there were still six half-subs lying around and a full one. No one wanted them but I couldn’t bear to see them go into the garbage.
I wrapped the half ones in foil, loaded them into my backpack and started running home.
Partway down Boylston, I see a homeless man. I say “Hey, would you like a sandwich?”
He smiles and says “Shu-ah” (sure). Well, I have six so I say, “How about another?” He says “Definitely! What kind are they?” I’m not sure as they had gotten mixed up when I wrapped them in foil, but as it turns out he didn’t really care anyways.
I feel as though I’m a sandwich delivery man. The subs were in the sports drink side pocket so while I’m running I just reach back and hand them off.
The second man looked fairly respectable, contrary to normal attire of the homeless. He’s holding up a sign that says “My son and I are homeless. Please help.” He’s relatively young, forties I’d say. He looks stern, as if life’s fortune had taken a turn for the worse and he shouldn’t be in that situation. He’s wearing a decent button down shirt and khaki’s. It makes me think he and his son probably live out of a car.
“Sir, would you like a sandwich?” He immediately asks, “What kind are they?” I give the same answer; I wasn’t sure. “Have they been refridgerated?” “Yes,” I tell him. I explain where the subs came from. He accepts two, says a quick word of thanks, and I’m off. Back to my run.
The last guy was my favorite. He was seated in front of Walgreens or CVS–I forget–which I can only assume is a good begging spot as customers file out with change in their pockets fresh from the cashier. I wonder if the homeless life has become more difficult with more and more cashless transaction.
Anyways, he couldn’t have been more than 25 and had a fairly happy look to him. He actually reminded me of Maciej (from Japan), at least in physical appearance and demeanor. “Hey bud, would you like a sandwich?” He immediately brightens up and says “Yeah man! I really just want food and everyone else keeps giving me money! Thanks!” I could see the excitement in his eyes. When was the last time that he had had a good sub-sandwich? Even before I jet off, he’s digging into the first sandwich. Chicken salad sub, I think it was.
With a backpack considerably lighter and almost back to the house, I return. Gotta say, after the 20 bucks dilemma, I felt pretty good about myself. A 2 mile run in 25 minutes while helping the homeless. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Posted: July 13th, 2009 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: All, Boston 2009, Thoughts | Tags: All, twenty dollars | No Comments »
I went out with a newly found friend (and extremely English) Alexandra and Colin yesterday to Boston Commons. After making utter fools of ourselves with the hilarity that ensued from an inability to play frisbee effectively (while counting in Serbo-Croat), we headed back. As a true tourist, Alex was taking pictures; meanwhile a uniquely dressed man approached us with a form about the Aids Walk.
Twenty dollars he asked of Colin and me: A donation to support this man who was HIV positive. And so I donated twenty dollars.
But the entire way home I wondered, why? Why did I donate, when I myself am not in a financially secure situation? Twenty dollars is quite the sum of money. As we walked away, another gentlemen spoke with the same stout interestingly clothed man and they held a conversation that made us question the validity of his request. Was it a scam? I later found out the AIDS walk ended a month ago.
Regardless, for some reason I decided to give this man twenty dollars. It was not out of generosity – my own organization needed the donation. I walked away not regretting what I had done, but more I was curious as to why did I do something that was so innately out of character for me. A few coins or dollars–yes, I would give to a seemingly genuine cause or person in need. But twenty dollars was a high sum of money for anyone to receive in an easy handout.
Overall, I feel blessed that I’m able to wonder about why I gave him twenty dollars, rather than being the one required to scam or beg for money. What scares me the most still, is that for all the reasoning and logic I have planted in my mind, there are still brief moments when I cast rationality aside and act far from who I believe myself to be. So then one has to wonder in the moments when no logical conclusion can be drawn from our anomalous actions, does what we do serve a greater purpose? Did that twenty dollars become part of a change beyond the context of what I can understand and for that reason it was destined to happen? In the end, I can only hope that that gentleman’s motives were true and that my donation was in fact a donation to AIDS walk, but at the very least this one source of randomness has caused me to reflect and wonder… just what am I in the inner-workings of the grand scheme of the universe?
Yes. I know that was mystic. And it was an illogical post in itself. But in the confusion, it becomes difficult to think it a sequential manner. Happy July!
Posted: June 29th, 2009 | Author: tim.soo | Filed under: All, Boston 2009, Thoughts | Tags: All | No Comments »
If someone wished to hunt me down using this blog, I’ve realized the task would not be difficult.
I’ve come to realize that writing a personal statement signifies much more than the simple task of writing an essay. Whereas general writing often finds fluidity in train of thought as characters move about or theses are proven, this task of answering “why I want to go to medical school” is a much more stagnant process.
Many applicants will still approach the 5000 character work with only a single thought in mind: What will the admissions committee think? While it is a worthwhile pursuit to write with the purpose and audience in mind, I’ve learned that subjection and chance play too large a role to be able to do so effectively. Instead, one should write for themselves because in effect the very answering of the question requires a reassessment and evaluation of the 20+ years that has led to this very moment. And who, then, is your true audience if not it is yourself?
Thinking back to a nearly day-by-day basis, I attempt to recall reasoning processes, powerful choices, and important events that make the current version of me different than me five years ago. Aside from the societal perception of maturation attributed to a greater age, why can I consider myself more wisened and for what reasons can I laugh at the naivete of my former self? And once we can answer those questions, we then must dissect how we reasoned and arrived at those answers. In essence, the personal statement allows us to more concretely define and understand who we are.
I implore everyone, regardless of whether the essay will be read by anyone, to write one.
The prompt is unimportant and even unnecessary. For my purposes, it happens to be “Why do you want to go to medical school?” because that happens to be the current phase of my academic career. But the question could just as easily be “Why do I want to become _____?” or “Why do I believe ____?” Without a topic, the process comes just as easily.
There is, however, an added benefit of having an audience outside yourself. Writing this essay moves at a glacial speed because I’ve begun to feel the need to word phrases and sentences to adequately reflect the level of thought put into them. For the past three weeks I’ve written roughly 6-7 pages of which has been edited down to half a page.
It has truly become a method of meeting yourself and in many ways it feels as if I’m reacquainting myself to a friend to which I haven’t spoken for many years. And best of all, it’s offering much insight on how to move forward.
Boston is lovely.